5. fish: ps he loves beer.

After a week of getting blackout drunk poolside and landing back in Canada, fish told me that he was “going to need a few days” before he’d be “ready” to see me. All week he had texted me from the resort with a fervor I assumed the time he needed was for doing chores or errands and catching up with normal life or work responsibilities. But mid-week he dropped a bomb, so to speak when he told me “I don’t want to tell you what I’m working through – you take Imodium for it.” It’s not romantic but it’s a good a place as any to start the story of our second date; in short, it’s shit:

Fish: Whats up for the weekend? Im free fri, sat up til 4 and all sunday.
Me: Dunno. Pick your poison.
Fish: Fri would likely be ok.
Me: Just ok?
Fish: Haha well ya it will hoping my tiredness and the Imodium works again
Me: Oh you’re saying you’re hoping to be ok.
Fish: Its nice to be chatting on the regular again though pen ole buddy ole pal
Me: Yea? I was surprised you texted me from Punta Cana.
Fish: U came across my mind time to time

Another little exchange of texts I’m fond of happened when I was approached by an older gentleman while at a work event attending the Rogers Cup. He was friendly and handsome but significantly older than my dating range, he looked to be at least 20 years older than me. As he reached out to touch my arm to ask about my tattoo I looked around for reprieve in my peer group – no luck – and just then, my phone dinged loudly. I excused myself to check the message; on my screen was a notification of the fish asking how the matches had been and if I was heading home yet. As I took my seat on the shuttle bus I replied to fish scolding him for interrupting and dashing my potential love connection with a retiree.

Fish: Im glad I take priority over a creep
Me: Should I bump you higher up? Over who? My mother?
Fish: Haha well I wanna say yea
Me: Done. She’s dead to me. What mother?
Fish: Lol you’re such a babe.
Me: A babe? Heartless you mean. I just disowned my mother.
Fish: Well u melted my heart.

We stayed in regular contact. He chided me for not liking enough of his new Instagram posts; which somehow was endearing to me, maybe because I’m a mother. He texted me a photo of his two “free tix” to the movie theatre and said “Someday … one for me one for you.” We talked about movies he liked and he said one of his favourites is PS I love you; when I admitted I’d never seen it he was horrified. We set our date for Friday and he asked me to “chillingly pick something to do” (because I’m so chill) but we knew the plan was dinner+ (find something to do on the fly).

Friday after work he texted to say a patio spot seemed smart since it was so nice out and asked if I wanted to be picked up or meet at his place and head there together? When I arrived, he was so proud to show me his outfit – coral shorts and a white linen button-up shirt and dock shoes. He kissed me hard before we left for dinner saying he wanted to greet me properly and that kiss is probably the only time I’ve felt anything close to a real connection since my ex.

The patio was just a block or two down the road and when we were seated we unwittingly (at least on my part) ordered unnecessarily over-sized beers. I watched him open his mouth and pour the entire thing down his throat, and after they took our food order he ordered another that came while we ate. His voice grew more boisterous but not unpleasant in any of the ways you might expect. But it’s worth noting, we were in a restaurant geared to an older crowd and people had started to cast a few glances our way. We mostly talked about his trip, he told me little stories and showed me a few photos. When we finished eating, I quietly asked for and settled the bill. He was reluctant but I insisted and he thanked me. As I gathered my purse he what remained in my beer, two thirds of an unreasonably large beer. I didn’t love it. We took a stroll through a sidewalk sale on the way back to his house.

When we settled onto his couch, he apologized for drinking so much and admitted he does it when he’s socially intimidated or nervous. He asked if I wanted to watch Jurassic World (finally) but finding a stream proved difficult. His followup offer was “PS I love you” and almost immediately I found I had zero interest in it, so you’ll have to forgive what comes next: We started fooling around , talking and laughing, and it was apparent we were both escalating, so I eventually sputtered out a “Ok, let’s go” and we headed off to his bedroom. After sex he apologized about the size of his dick (it’s average), lamenting he wished it was bigger for me. We went back to the living room and he put the movie back on back on. I lasted less than ten minutes before I literally just pulled his torso on top of me out of sheer boredom; this happened three more times that night. He’d put the movie on, I couldn’t stand it, we’d have sex. After the last time he looked at me “Do you want to just stay in bed and watch something in here? You can stay the night? We can go get breakfast in the morning if you don’t have anywhere to be.” And because of my own baggage and reasons, immediately, I’m on edge.

I have a weird thing about sleeping near men – I’ll say this about it in hopes you can understand me a little better: In the last few months of my relationship with my ex, he pressed my thumbprint onto my phone while I slept to gain access to the entirety of my text messages, diaries, and poetry. He admitted to doing it multiple times weeks later; I had no idea until he told me and I haven’t been the same since. When I wake up next to a man, I feel instant panic of what’s happened while I was unconscious.

So when fish asked me to stay over – a feeling of dread sunk deep in my stomach. I told him I’d stay for a while and then meet up with him in the am for breakfast.   He asked me several times over the course of the next movie, as we watched in his bed, but the final time he said defiantly “Or you know, you can just leave.” And something about the way he said that last bit – it was like the starter pistol of terror for me. I don’t blame fish at all, he could have no way of knowing. But something in his tone, I just remember thinking “he’s telling me to get the fuck out of here – he’s done with me.” I think I laughed out “yeah, I should go” gritting through what felt like being punched in the stomach. I’ve never gotten dressed that fast ever in my entire life. I was at his kitchen counter collecting my purse and car keys before he even realized what had happened – he was throwing clothes on following me scrambling for an explanation and offering retractions on whatever he said. I caught the look in his eye for just a second – he looked like he felt some combination of bewilderment and horrified. I don’t ever remember what I said, my brain was screaming “get the fuck out of there before you crack”.

I cried in my car as I drove home. It was 2am. My phone dinged as I parked:

Fish: I cant believe I scared you out of bed
Me: I like you fish. No joke no bullshit. I spook easy. Brekky/Brunch if you want.
Fish: I actually made plans. Kidding ya I’m down. That was lots of fun thanks. Im back in bed with the AC howling thinking of you.
Me: I like holding your hands a lot.

If he had left the conversation there I’d have been OK … I think. But he didn’t:

Fish: Can we do that position b4 brekky?
Fish: Shoulda slept over u b
Me: Shhh. Goodnight you b.

All the softness the night could have rendered between us hardened as I slept that night. Those last few texts are what gave me pause, and in the next blog, I’ll tell you two truths and a lie: broken breakfast, inarticulate intentions, and a choice made between two second-night-stands.

peaceball
“Ay you sexy thing.” – fish, when I sent him this before a game.
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3. fish: bourbon & a blanket.

In the many months we’ve been doing whatever we do, I’ve learned to ignore almost everything fish says except for the last thought during conversations. Why? Because that is where intent and reality lives for him. So I knew not to get my hopes up after offering up my Wednesday night to finally meet him. “I gotta run around a bit but perhaps. Weekend would be better.” He texted. I told him my weekend was tricky since my entire Saturday was booked early til late. I knew he had to be up for his flight at 3am Monday so Sunday also seemed off the table. But this time, fish was a little more persistent. After telling me he had just stuffed “three wieners down the gullet” and sent me a photo of his BBQ, he asked what I had for dinner then doubled back to the weekend with more specificity, “Ur busy friday too?” I told him I wasn’t. “Well well well” he replied. He offered up his entire weekend for me to choose from including Sunday. For the first time we actually had options and thus the first date was born:

Me: Am I keeping Friday or Sunday free? Or penpal?
Fish: Friday night or Sunday morn/aft or anytime Saturday haha
Me: Friday?
Fish: Friday
Me: Weird! Meeting the fish IRL. What do we want to do?
Fish: I’d like to get food.
Me: What kind of food?
Fish: Anything for me. Going to places I haven’t been is neat. Where you wanna go?
Me: Oh I haven’t been to (the new spot downtown for southern fare).
Fish: Neither.
Me: I’ve heard good things.

24 hours later fish texted me to tell me about his volleyball game and asked if we were still on for tomorrow. It dawned on me in this moment, that even after what felt like a lifetime of texting, guys still fear that a girl won’t show up (dudes, I’m so sorry that happens.) I confirmed we were on with a “Yep!” and the next day asked for specifics “Whats the plan penpal? Timeframe? Meet there or pick me up? Call it off and text for a few more months?” He told me he’d “be ready by 7 if that’s cool”. He then let me know he only lived 5kms from the restaurant and suggested I could stop by his place for a drink before or offered to pick me up. I told him a pre-drink was good (because nerves, duh).

At 6:30, after nailing the perfect wing of my eyeliner he texted to let me know I could come anytime, and gave me his address. Fish lives in new suburban subdivision that is pretty dense with condominiums and town-homes. “Once you find the visitor parking just call if you need help.” he said, and I did, so I called him after parking and his voice was … well … I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, it’s SO weird hearing someones voice for the first time, I’d barely heard a snippit of his voice on social media, so talking on the phone I found it was gentler and slower than I thought it would be. And the almost southern drawl I told you about – by golly gee he has it.

I had bought a 6-pack of his favourite beer meant as a friendly gesture since he’d told me his fridge was barren before his trip and in my little backpack purse I’d tossed two tallboy Radlers, just in case of adventures.  I got out of my car, beer in hand, and as we spoke on the phone I looked up the street to see him strolling towards me. I can’t remember how we hung up but I remember us sharing a bashful grin before genuinely sharing the loveliest hug. It just felt natural and emotionally safe, I think, for both of us. It was clear we were both nervous, him more-so than me, but it was also clear we knew we were in good hands with one another. I handed him the six pack and told him it was to tide him over until his trip, he thanked me looking positively giddy and started telling me about the cocktails he’d mixed up for us: pineapple juice and rum with cherries.

We got to his door, went inside and I found myself in an open-concept decidedly-bachelor condo townhouse: dark woods, marble counters, black leather seating, fireplace a beer fridge smack dab in the middle of the room, and Canadian-themed artwork on the walls. He sat on the couch while I set my bag on his table, and he told me our cocktails were in the fridge. In my head I thought this was weird, but ok, I’ll go with it. I opened the fridge door and on the top glass shelf sat two glasses, one with a paper heart stuck to it with my name written inside. I don’t know if I blushed or not but I grabbed the glasses and joined him on the couch shaking my head in disbelief. “Oh my god. As if you did this. I’m keeping it forever. That’s so sweet.” He apologized that his handwriting wasn’t the nicest and I clucked my tongue at him. We drank our drinks and chatted about how his packing for the trip was going and it honestly was so easy for me. We both text the same way we talk so it felt like we’d done this before. I think us knowing each others families just made it easy. I’m sorry to say in our rush to get to dinner (we were both starving) I completely forgot to keep my paper heart, but it remains one of the sweetest first date gestures I’ve ever experienced.

We went to the restaurant downtown and went inside. It was dimly lit with candlelight on each table; it’s trendy and hipster and all walks of life are there – the vibe of the place is just chill. The restaurant is known for crazy cocktails and they didn’t disappoint. Fish, a smoker, ordered a stiff bourbon infused with coffee vermouth and tobacco bitters and I ordered a mule made with brandy, vermouth and a flaming lime with vodka. Mine was refreshingly enjoyable; fish, however, seemed out of his depth with his gnarly bourbon, stifling a wince through every sip. I ordered a caesar salad for dinner and he asked for the chicken and waffles with a habanero cane syrup. Again, he’d overdone it. A bite of the spicy syrup, sniffle, sip his drink, throat clears; he almost looked like he was in pain. The tab would have been pretty pricey but he insisted on paying which is always a gentlemanly thing to do. The conversation throughout had flowed pretty well. There were a few times I could tell he didn’t know what to say so I gave him the crutch and steered us towards work, trips, and work-trips which opened him up. When it was time to go he flicked my backpack and said it was cute and asked if I minded if he had a cigarette. I told him I didn’t and we leaned on the trunk of his car and I pointed out some other restaurants downtown. Suddenly it started to pour rain – we dove into the car and it was coming down so hard that even the high speed wipers couldn’t keep up. We went back to his house and he offered me his coat.

fish4

At some point we’d agreed to go back to his house to watch a movie. So when we got inside we popped a Radler and beer and sat on his couch. He turned on the fireplace and looked at me sheepishly as he sat down and said “Don’t laugh, but I like to have a blanket when I watch shows, it’s just a comfort thing, my whole family does it.” And he offered me half – though we weren’t sitting too close. Then he did something bizarre. He tucked his feet up under the blanket and onto the couch, trying to interlock our legs. I’m still sort of weird about the “comfort/bonding” side of intimacy, I remember thinking why omg stop! He showed me an Apple Note where he keeps a list of things he wants to watch (yes, you read that) and we settled on a super hero movie. Luckily the movie was totally ridiculous so we were able to enjoy it and keep chatting throughout. After the movie ended I thanked him for dinner and said I better get going for my early morning; he hadn’t made any real moves all night so I wasn’t sure what to think. He said ok and smiled and the next thing I knew he had pounced on me on the couch and we just started making out. After a while I thought to myself, wow, he’s a great kisser, and immediately laughed when the followup thought to that was “I’ll have to tell my mother”. He called me a “cute little thing” and asked what was funny and I told him. After a while we chilled out and said our goodbyes.

When I got home I sent him a text “omg penpal we met.” He replied back “hiphip!”